Setting Goals for Self Esteem

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Did you make a new year’s resolution to do something differently in 2011? If so, you’re in a great position to improve your self-esteem while you’re at it.

Your level of self-esteem reflects the relationship you have with yourself. The more your relationship with you is based on trust, respect, interest and affection, the better your self-esteem. Having this kind of relationship doesn’t mean looking the other way when you screw up, or pretending it didn’t happen. It means holding yourself accountable in a respectful and constructive way.

One of the easiest ways to practice holding yourself accountable is by setting goals. Self-esteem is enhanced when you set a goal that’s meaningful and important to you, and you follow through to make it happen. So if you want to improve your reputation with yourself, go ahead and set some heartfelt goals.

If you want to set yourself up for success, make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Let’s set a S.M.A.R.T. goal together so you can see how it works..

Let’s look at something that’s important and meaningful to you, the completion of which will provide you with a boost. What is something you’re either doing or not-doing, that’s affecting your relationship with yourself? Let’s set a goal around that.

Imagine that, like the rest of us, you don’t always do what you say you’re going to do. Somehow, the things you want for yourself just don’t happen. Something always gets in the way of pursuing your dreams. If this has been going on for years, you’re probably starting to feel like maybe you should just give up.

What about that book you know you have inside you? You’ve told yourself many times to start working on it … maybe you’ve even started it but don’t often feel moved to work on it. Why not get that book written using a S.M.A.R.T. goal?

Let’s start with the kind of goal we typically make on New Year’s Eve: “This year, I’m going to write more.” It’s a good start, but as a goal, it’s a little too vague. How much more are you going to write? And what do you want to write?

Try this: “I’m going to write a book.” That’s nice and Specific; you’re not just saying you’re going to write more, you’re saying your going to write a book.

And now we need to make sure the goal is Measurable. Just to be safe, let’s change the wording to “I’m going to finish my book.” Now you have a specific activity, writing a book, that you’ll know you’ve achieved when the book is finished. “Measurable” means you have a particular way of knowing you’ve achieved your goal. Let’s say in this case that when you finish your first draft you’ve met your goal.

You’ll also need to be able to measure your progress toward the goal, so you can stay on track. Let’s say you decide to write every morning for an hour before going to work. If you do that, you’ll know you’re on the path to achieving your goal. And if you don’t do it, you’ll know exactly how you’re keeping that goal from being achieved. And speaking of that…

Is your goal Achievable? Let’s see. Many others have written books before you, which means it is literally possible. You have a great idea for a book, you have the desire, and you’re willing to carve out some time in your schedule to write it. Finishing your book, therefore, seems like an achievable goal.

If your goal is to write a college physics textbook that makes the #1 spot on the New York Times Best-Seller List, well, that might not be so achievable, since textbooks don’t typically even make that particular list, let alone gain the top position. Make sure your goal is something that can be done so you don’t drive yourself nuts chasing an impossible dream. At the same time, don’t assume that just because something is difficult means it’s not achievable.

Next, ask yourself this: Is your goal’s schedule Realistic for you? Are you really going to get up an hour early and write before going to work every day? If the answer is “probably not,” your goal as it stands is not realistic and needs to be tweaked. Maybe you’re more of a night person. How about writing for 4 hours a week in the evenings? Can you find two 2-hour blocks in the evening, or one block of 4 hours once a week? Say you decide that you’ll write every Sunday night from 6pm to 10pm. If that’s a time that you’re likely to sit down and do it, your schedule is realistic.

Lastly, you’ll need to set a Time-bound deadline for the attainment of your goal. When will you finish your book? By your next birthday? By December 31st? Choose a deadline that’s both reasonable and motivating. If it’s too soon, it may be unrealistic. If it’s too far in the future, you will not be motivated to work toward it. Let’s say you choose Dec. 31st of this year.

So we went from “I want to write more” to “I want to finish my book on or before Dec. 31st of this year by writing for 4 hours every Sunday night.” Now you have a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goal with built-in tasks to get you there. And more importantly, you’ve made a promise to yourself. It’s the keeping of that promise, more than the attainment of this or any goal, that will enhance your self-esteem.

© Copyright 2011 by Tina Gilbertson, MA, LPC, therapist in Portland, Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

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  • Karina January 19th, 2011 at 4:20 PM #1

    Self-esteem is not just about feeling proud of yourself as some people think it is.Self-esteem is much more than that.It is about being comfortable in your own skin,being confident of yourself and also being responsible for your words and actions.A person with real self-respect will not shame or demean another.

  • Tina Gilbertson January 20th, 2011 at 3:56 PM #2

    Hear, hear! I love how you put that, Karina. Being comfortable in your own skin is a great image to hold on to when thinking about self-esteem. Also, it’s so important to remember that, as you said, self-esteem ALWAYS entails other-esteem – not shaming or demeaning other people. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  • Wanderer January 21st, 2011 at 3:22 PM #3

    Tell me how a person judges his or her self-esteem and I will tell you how that person operates at work, in love, in sex, in parenting, in every important aspect of existence – and how high he or she is likely to rise. The reputation you have with yourself – your self-esteem – is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life. – Nathaniel Branden

  • Kristin January 24th, 2011 at 5:43 PM #4

    Keeping the goals reasonable and within a certain boundary is the most important thing. You can’t just say “I’m going to climb Mt. Everest!” and stride out the front door to do it when you have no experience in mountain climbing and can’t even point to it on the map, can you? I bet most of us couldn’t even get onto the roof of our houses without a ladder never mind tackle Everest. Be realistic and they will be more achievable.

  • Cheryl February 11th, 2014 at 9:46 AM #5

    Love that you’ve identified ‘measurable’ as being: you can measure your PROGRESS towards the goal. I always thought it was just your goal, in and of itself that needed to be measurable. How radically that changes the process… making your progress is measurable seems to be the key to the whole thing. If you can’t measure progress, how on earth could you stay motivated through the long run. Thanks again Tina. Your series here on self-esteem is awesome. :)

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